A rising athlete relies on a good coach to provide the insight and direction that lead to greater skills. In the same way, smart business leaders tap into the proven expertise of executive coaches to help them develop the leadership and personal power needed to rise to the top of their fields. What’s it like to work with an executive coach? Why are these coaches so beneficial?

Most of us have watched sports coaches in action. In nearly every case, we know that the coach’s athlete or team is much better at the sport than the coach. Think John Madden, Tommy Lasorda, Phil Jackson. None of these epic coaches could possibly match up against their world-class players. So what good are they?

The answer is simple: They have specific knowledge about the game that the players don’t have, and they can see things the players can’t. This is exactly why an executive coach is so valuable to the career paths of individuals in leadership roles who wish to grow at a rate that would be impossible on their own. Let’s take a look at some of the elements of a well-rounded executive coaching program.

Time frame and objective

Unlike with athlete coaching, which can last an entire career, executive coaching programs usually last for nine months to a year. If the coaches are seasoned high-performers, this is sufficient time for the executive client to learn necessary skills, un-learn bad habits and embed the new knowledge through practice and analysis. Coaching or training programs lasting weeks or just a few months are normally less thorough and less effective.

What are the expected outcomes of an executive coaching program?
Whether in sports or in business, no coach worth his or her salt would launch a program without first establishing the goals and objectives to be met through coaching. Working with their clients’ unique situations and understanding their specific needs, executive coaches aim for desired outcomes such as:

• Versatility in all aspects of the executive’s job performance
• The ability to develop and communicate a shared vision throughout an organization
• Solid leadership proficiency
• Skills in generating followership and building teams
• Becoming a strong influencer
• Learning how to develop individuals and bring out the best in them
• The ability to manage conflicts with an eye on ideal resolutions

Each of these skills and abilities is critical for today’s executive. It would be nice if a person could just read that list, decide that they will acquire each skill and then go out and acquire them. Unfortunately, the development of these abilities requires practice and guidance, and that’s where an executive coach and his or her methodologies come into play.

A solid executive coaching program consists of many elements designed to empower the executive in a variety of areas. Here are a few of them.

Necessary tools

Coaches share with their clients the right information and tools needed to acquire specific skill sets now and in the future. An executive coach sees the bigger picture and knows what the client will need to learn in order to succeed.

Leadership observation

While the definition of leadership is simple to understand, acquiring this trait doesn’t happen automatically. Executive coaches watch their clients in work settings, looking closely at how the clients’ actions and decisions affect the team and/or the business as a whole. Coaches then share their observations with their clients and define where leadership is strong and where changes are necessary.


When a tennis player has a match with a practice partner, the coach is able to watch every aspect of the player’s performance and determine where slight – but possibly costly – errors are being made. It’s the same with the executive coach, who puts the client into roles and circumstances typical in the executive’s work life in order to monitor how the executive manages them.

Meeting analysis

All great leaders in business are masters of the meeting. With the right abilities, an executive can run a meeting that imparts information and garners feedback in the most effective and time-efficient manner. Executive coaches observe their clients’ skill at handling meetings and then provide analysis of what was done well and where improvement is called for.